Amidst the debate in Washington surrounding the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, the conventional wisdom is that “engagement” with Iran cannot go on forever. If the Obama administration’s talks with Iran don’t bear fruit soon, we must “try something else.”
But just what is that “something else.” The only two tactical suggestions I have come across are either the use of military force to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities or “crippling sanctions” that would starve Iran’s economy.
The problem is that neither of these “options” is really feasible. A military strike on Iran would have disastrous consequences for the stability of the Middle East and is a recipe for three more decades of antagonistic relations between Washington and Tehran.
Meanwhile, the idea that either the Chinese or the Russians will support “crippling sanctions” against Iran is a delusion.
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett sum up the United States’ strategic position in their article, “What serious diplomacy looks like — in Turkey,” which appears in today’s Politico.
America no longer has the economic and political wherewithal to dictate strategic outcomes in the Middle East. Increasingly, if Washington wants to promote and protect U.S. interests in this critical region, it will have to do so through serious diplomacy — by respecting evolving balances of power and accommodating the legitimate interests of others so that U.S. interests will be respected.
That means engaging in creative diplomacy and understanding that negotiations will likely be a long and difficult process.
How the Obama administration reacts to Iran’s response to the IAEA – which will likely be made public tomorrow – will go a long way toward demonstrating whether it is prepared to exercise the kind of strategic patience necessary to reorient the United States’ relationship with Iran and reverse the decline of American influence in the broader region.
— Ben Katcher
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